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Nietzsche Vs. Hobbes Essay, Research Paper


How are the philosophies of Nietzsche and Hobbes different on topics of

Christianity, Human Nature, and Morality.

The philosophies of Nietzsche and Hobbes? are radically different, Hobbes?

philosophy is dominated by loyalty to the crown, riddled with references to the Christian

scriptures, and a belief that life is ?nasty, brutish, and short?(Leviathan, 133); while

Nietzsche?s philosophy was dominated by the pessimistic Schopenhauer, a belief that the

human race was a herd, and that ?God is dead?(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, S. 13). Hobbes

and Nietzsche look at the world completely differently. Hobbes was a Christian who

defended the bible, while Nietzsche called ?Christianity the one great curse?(The

Anti-Christ, s. 62). On the topic of human nature Hobbes thought life to be a ?warre…of

every man, against every man?(Leviathan, 232) while Nietzsche took a nihilistic

approach and declared that ? human nature is just a euphemism for inertia, cultural

conditioning, and what we are before we make something of ourselves…?(Human, all to

Human, 67). On morality these two philosophers have opposing views, Hobbes views on

morality were straight out of Exodus, while Nietzsche holds that ?morality is a hindrance

to the development of new and better customs: it makes stupid [people]?(Daybreak, s.

19). These two philosophers lived at different times, in different locations, and their

differing philosophies reflect the lives that they lived.

Thomas Hobbes was born into an English upper class family in 1588, his father

was the parish priest. Thomas was educated by his uncle until he was fifteen, when he

was sent to Oxford to continue his studies. In 1608 he finished his formal education and

took up with the son of Lord Cavendish, they undertook an adventure which saw them

travel across Europe. Hobbes remained in England until the start of the English civil war

when he fled to France. The civil war took place from 1642 till 1649, this conflict had a

profound affect on Hobbes, particularly the execution of Charles I in 1649. All his

writings after this event reflect Hobbes? quest to find a peaceful, stable form of

government. Hobbes died in 1679.

Fredrich Nietzsche was born into a upper class family in Germany, on 15 October

1844, his father was tutor for the royal family and also a priest. Nietzsche father died

when he was twelve, this had life-long impact on him. At age eight-teen he discovered

the philosopher Schopenhauer, the basis for much of his early work, and gave up

Christianity. He was educated at the University of Bonn, at the age of twenty-five

Nietzsche was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Basle. He became

close friends with composer Richard Wanger, who?s work he enthusiastically supported.

Nietzsche most productive years were to be his last, he drove insane by syphilis and died

at the dawn of this century.

Nietzsche declared in that ?modern Christian civilization is sick and must be

overcome?(The Anti-Christ, 156), Hobbes would have found that excerpt to be repugnant

having declared that ?God…when he speaks to any subject…he ought to be obeyed?

(Leviathan, 492). Hobbes was a Christian, while Nietzsche was a atheist, their views on

Christianity are completely opposite. Nietzsche held the belief throughout his life that

?Christianity has taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted, it has

made an ideal out of opposition to the preservative instincts of a strong life; it has

depraved the reason even of the intellectually strongest natures by teaching men

to feel the supreme values of intellectuality as sinful, as misleading, as

temptations,?(The Anti-Christ, S. 5)

Professor Howard Rainer of Davis University states that ?Nietzsche was

uncompromisingly anti-Christian, for Christianity was the most potent force against those

values which he prized most highly.? Nietzsche felt that Christianity would hinder the

emergence of the ?overman?(The Will to Power, 546), a human being that follows their

own path and not the herd?s. Hobbes while being a Christian to the end, had a rather

pessimistic view of it; Professor Ian Johnston of Malaspina University states that ?

Hobbes believed the public religion of the artificial state must serve the need for security

to protect the selfish economic interests of the individuals composing it.? Hobbes view of

Christianity was quite radical for his time and he publicly scorned for his belief that

Christendom was nothing more economic security blanket; Hobbes attacked the elements

in the Christian church which profited from religion. The times in which Hobbes and

Nietzsche lived in were very different, in Hobbes times ?Deadly religious wars were

fought across the European continent. It was in this climate the Thomas Hobbes

proposed…[his] philosophy.?(Howard Rainer, Lecture Notes) Nietzsche did not have to

worry about being hunted as a heretic if his ideas were not like by members of the

Christian community, Hobbes did. Hobbes makes references to the scripture quite

frequently in his works, he uses them to strengthen his ideas surrounding philosophy;

Nietzsche never quotes from the Bible but he make many references to the parables of

Jesus, he uses these in his critiques on modern Christianity. Hobbes and Nietzsche views

on Christianity could never be reconciled, Hobbes died a Christian, while Nietzsche is

reputed as saying ?let me go to my grave a honest pagan?.

Both Nietzsche and Hobbes share a pessimistic view of human nature, Hobbes

asserted that life was ?nasty, brutish, and short?(Leviathan, 278) while Nietzsche

believed that human nature was akin to that of an animal herd. Professor Howard Rainer

of Davis University states that ?Nietzsche thought that human nature was nothing more

than cultural conditioning on a mass scale. Nietzsche and Hobbes both shared the view

that human nature changed depending on the situations a person found themselves in.

Hobbes ideas on human nature were gloomy, in Leviathan Hobbes states

?in the nature of man, we find three principall causes of quarell. First,

Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory. The first, maketh men invade

for Gain; the second for Safety; and the third, for Reputation.?(Leviathan, 345)

Most of Hobbes ideas were born out of his experience with the English Civil War,

Hobbes; ?attitude toward man, whom he considered a wicked animal, knowing no

restraint to his passions, was, doubtlessly formulated in England during the turbulent

years of the Revolution.?(Ethics:Origins and Development, 172). Nietzsche thoughts on

human nature are revealed in this quote: ? It is not things, but opinions about things that

have absolutely no existence, which have so deranged mankind!?(Daybreak, s. 563)

Nietzsche held the belief that man had no such thing as human nature to battle against, he

belief that the idea of human nature was fictitious creation of past philosophers who

sought to explain life. Nietzsche advanced the opinion that mankind has a ?Herd

mentality [that] overcomes master morality by making all the noble qualities appear to be

vices and all weak qualities appear to be virtues. Mediocre values are the values of the

herd.?(Helen Grayman, Lecture Notes). Nietzsche?s writings on human nature, for the

most part are an attack on the herd mentality, which he holds great contempt for.

Nietzsche put forth this idea ?Our entire sociology simply does not know any other

instinct than that of the herd, i.e., that of the sum of zeros-where every zero has ?equal

rights,? where it is virtuous to be zero.?(The Will to Power, 33) Nietzsche believes that

?Not ?mankind? but overman is the goal!?(The Will to Power, 519 ), this means that the

goal of the human race, in Nietzsche?s mind, should be the development of a class of

human beings that is not part of the herd, which hinders mankind?s development. Both

Hobbes and Nietzsche?s views on human nature were misanthropic, Nietzsche held the

belief that mankind was nothing more than a herd, and Hobbes views on human nature

can be summed up wonderfully with three words: competition, diffidence, and glory.

Hobbes and Nietzsche have differing opinions on morality, Hobbes adhered to the

Christian mores during his time, Nietzsche would have found this funny because he was

an atheist and also because he did not beleive in any moral code. Nietzsche thought

?Morality makes stupid.– Custom represents the experiences of men of earlier

times as to what they supposed useful and harmful – but the sense for custom

(morality) applies, not to these experiences as such, but to the age, the sanctity,

the indiscussability of the custom. And so this feeling is a hindrance to the

acquisition of new experiences and the correction of customs: that is to say,

morality is a hindrance to the development of new and better customs: it makes

stupid.? (Daybreak,s. 19),

he believed that morality prevents people from reaching their full potential in life, he

uses the example of the head mentality to show how people are controlled by their

morals. Nietzsche believed that morals are one of the root problems of society, Howard

Rainer of Davis University states ?Nietzsche felt morals destroyed the basic framework

of society.? Hobbes view on morals was affected by his fanatical belief in Christianity, he

basically referred back to the scriptures for all his idea on morality; his greatest source

for ideas on morality was the Book of Exodus. ?Many of Hobbes ideas concerning

morality have there base in the Bible, which he constantly refers to in his

works.?(Howard Rainer, Lecture Notes) Hobbes defends Christian morality in Leviathan,

he believes that only a society with a strong moral base is capable of keeping the wicked

nature of man in check. Hobbes was also a hypocrite, he believed that a King could

violate God?s laws if they were in the best interests of the state. Hobbes maintained that

everything must be done to protect the commonwealth, even morals could be tossed aside

for the advancement of the commonwealth. Nietzsche believed that

?Because we have for millennia made moral, aesthetic, religious demands on the

world, looked upon it with blind desire, passion or fear, and abandoned

ourselves to the bad habits of illogical thinking, this world has gradually

become so marvelously variegated, frightful, meaningful, soulful, it has

acquired color – but we have been the colorists: it is the human intellect that

has made appearances appear and transported its erroneous basic conceptions

into things.?( Human, all too Human, s.16)

these morals compounded themselves over the centuries making errors seem like truths,

Nietzsche was against these commonplace errors in our societies morals. Hobbes and

Nietzsche have absolutely nothing similar in the realm of morals.

The beliefs of Hobbes and Nietzsche contradict each other at every available

opportunity, their philosophies are totally different on almost every level. Nietzsche has a

hatred of Christianity which is unsurpassed, he believed that Christianity was one of the

leading reasons for a herd mentality in society; Hobbes embrace Christianity and uses the

scriptures as one of his main sources of inspiration. Only on the topic of human nature

do Hobbes and Nietzsche ideas come closer together, both of these philosopher held a

pessimistic view of human nature; Hobbes believed it was a ?warre…of every man,

against every man?(Leviathan, 232), while Nietzsche held the belief that the human race

was a large herd. On morality Nietzsche and Hobbes do not see eye to eye, Nietzsche did

not belief in any sort of morals while Hobbes used the Bible as his main moral cookbook,

these two radically different ideas do not match up whatsoever. In conclusion Nietzsche

and Hobbes are two philosophers with very different life philosophies.

Works Cited

Primary Sources:

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Toronto, 1985. Penguin Classics.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Anti-Christ. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Human, All Too Human. Toronto, 1986. Penguin Books.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will To Power. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Daybreak. Toronto, 1984. Penguin Books.

Secondary Sources:

Grayman, Helen. Broward College. Lecture Notes.

Johnston, Ian. Malaspina University. Lecture Notes.

Kropotkin, Peter. Ethics: Origins and Development. 1989. George E. Harrap & Co.,Ltd.

Rainer, Howard. Davis University. Lecture Notes.


Book of Exodus, The Bible.

Hobbes, Thomas. The Citizen: Liberty-Dominion-Religion. Toronto, 1981. Penguin


Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Toronto, 1982. Penguin Books

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